On 15 May, at the NSW NAWO event generously hosted by BlueScope, almost 90 members and guests enjoyed a riveting site tour around the steelworks at Port Kembla followed by a fabulous lunch, a key note presentation by Peta Renkin (GM BlueScope Building Components) a panel discussion, networking activity and to top it off – afternoon tea.
Peta shared her journey of personal and career transitions from living in country Victoria attending a school of just 13 people to living in Kansas City working as VP HR for BlueScope. Peta walked us through her careers in HR to Operations, back to HR again and to her current role at GM level with P&L responsibility reminding us of what it takes to back yourself, get out of your comfort zone and it’s OK being green in a new role.
The panel of inspiring women; Lara, Sophie and Amanda clearly demonstrated the power of being open to learning and with the support of progressive managers and an inclusive organisation, taking a completely different career direction.
The key and inspiring messages from Peta Renkin’s presentation were:
Nothing ventured – nothing gained – Peta successfully applied for the National HR Graduate Program with BHP Steel and had to move to Whyalla in SA. Totally out of her comfort zone, she knew no-one and had not studied OHS.
Be courageous! At her very first meeting, one shift supervisor told Peta “I don’t believe in women in management and I’ll never work for a woman”! Peta said she drew a deep breath, kept calm and thanked him for his honesty, said “I hope one day I can change your view” and she did. Later they became very close and he even became one of her best advocates.
“It’s better to know how to learn than to know” – Dr Seuss New on the job Peta was told “meet me at the Tension Leveller” and had to ask “which one is the Tension Leveller? Ask questions, call someone and ask – it is ok to say “I don’t know”.
Back yourself – Peta walked into a challenging environment where staff were disillusioned, the plant was in bad shape, there was uncertainty and insecurity and a militant union but this turned out to be the best job ever!!
Sponsors and mentors – are important and gave Peta her first break. After 5 years and at only 26 years of age, Peta was offered her first real opportunity by her Works Manager – an Operations Co-ordinator role.
Flexibility – is really important to balance a family and career. Peta works flexibly and sets an example for her team.
Have the conversation – Peta always talked to her bosses about changing roles (even in her second year working) and says: “I don’t know where I found the courage”.
Moving up the ladder – Peta moved to Kansas to be VP People, US and China. It was tough at the time, with a remit broader than just HR. As a GM in an Operations role Peta had never run a P&L business. She says she was strategic and “it’s all about people and I have always been good at dealing with people”.
As you reflect on your career, remember to; Back Yourself, Ask Questions and be Courageous. You can do more than you might think! Extending our thanks to our own NSW Committee Member Kamini Wijekulasuriya, our MC for the event Michael Reay and the entire Bluescope team for organising the event and a fantastic site tour.